PHILADELPHIA — An internal training guide used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs compared veterans unhappy about their care to Oscar the Grouch, a newspaper reported.
The Philadelphia Inquirer obtained a VA training slide show with tips for employees on how to help veterans with their claims. It was shown to VA employees staffing town-hall events with veterans in Philadelphia.
About a dozen slides included pictures of the grumpy "Sesame Street" character who lives in a trash can. The slide show said that veterans might be demanding and unrealistic, and advised staffers on "what to say to Oscar the Grouch."
Veterans groups called the comparison insulting, especially in the wake of a VA scandal over veterans' health care.
"There is no time or place to make light of the current crisis that the VA is in," said Joe Davis, a national spokesman for the VFW. "And especially to insult the VA's primary customer."
A VA spokeswoman told The Inquirer that the agency regretted any misunderstanding.
"The training provided was not intended to equate veterans with this character," spokeswoman Marisa Prugsawan said. "It was intended to remind our employees to conduct themselves as courteously and professionally as possible when dealing with veterans and their concerns."
Prugsawan said she didn't know if the slide show was created locally or by the national VA office and sent to regional centers.